Astronomers announced yesterday that they’ve found what they think is an Earth-like planet, 490 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, orbiting the star Kepler 186.
The planet is only slightly bigger than Earth, rocky, and orbits its star in the so-called ‘Goldilocks zone’, making it likely hospitable for life. Though the planet is too far away to get a look at and tell if it actually has liquid water or a protective atmosphere, this is pretty good news that such planets are out there. And if we’ve found this one, there are bound to be millions more.
Kepler 186 isn’t even a star like our sun, it is an M-Dwarf, which means its smaller, dimmer and not as hot. This greatly extends the possible locations to look for habitable planets, if multiple kinds of stars can harbor them.
If we can find a loophole in the laws of physics that would let us get to another star within a human lifetime, I think humanity will have no problem finding enough livable planets to populate the galaxy.
Thinking of all those planets out there, unseen, unknown–it makes the explorer in me scream for a spaceship that can reach them. And though I know I’ll never be able to go myself, I can enjoy their exploration vicariously. I dearly hope that in my lifetime we will see at least the beginnings of interstellar travel.
I know it’s unlikely, but I can dream 🙂